Michael Andrews, Lights VII: A Shadow, 1974, acrylic on canvas, 72 × 72 inches (182.9 × 182.9 cm) © The Estate of Michael Andrews. Courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London.
Michael Andrews was born into a devout Methodist family. His father worked for Norwich Union insurance. He was educated at the City of Norwich School, and in his final year, attended evening classes at Norwich School of Art. After national service, much of it spent in Egypt, he studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. His main influences were William Coldstream, the Principal, and Francis Bacon, who occasionally taught in the school’s sketching club. In 1953, he won a two-year scholarship in painting to the British School at Rome. Upon his return from Rome, he divided his time between Norwich and London before settling in London in 1961. He remained there until 1977, when he moved to Norfolk. His first solo exhibition was held at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London in 1958, and his second at the same venue in 1963, the year he started living with June Keeley, his future wife. They had one daughter, Melanie, born in 1970. In 1992, they returned from Norfolk to London where Andrews died three years later. During his lifetime, he was given a retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London (1980–81). Another was held after his death at Tate Britain, London (2001).
Andrews is usually associated with painters of the so-called School of London—Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. Yet in spite of their shared belief in representing appearances, exploring the human form, and avoiding abstraction, he painted relatively few portraits and only three self-portraits in a career lasting some forty years. With a few exceptions, his paintings after 1970 are physically devoid of people, though not without an implied human presence or drama.
For the last twenty-five years of his life, Andrews was preoccupied with four great series of landscapes, and a group of luminous paintings of fish in water. The latter continue Andrews’s interest in group behaviour, first seen in the 1960s in his “party” pictures, The Deer Park, All Night Long, and Good and Bad at Games. Intensely curious about the natural world, Andrews found his subjects in the primeval landscapes of England and Scotland, the Australian outback, and the River Thames. “It seems to me impossible not to paint religious landscapes of aboriginal Australia,” he wrote in 1986, “just as it is almost impossible not to paint historical landscapes in Scotland.”
Michael Andrews was born in 1928 in Norwich, England, and died in 1995 in London, England. He attended the City of Norwich School, England; Norwich School of Art, England; and finally the Slade School of Fine Art, London, from 1949 to 1953. Recent solo museum exhibitions include the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (1991); Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (2000); and Tate Britain, London (2001).